Caribbean cruise coming up? Nice. Getting to Miami? Not so much. The airport has a reputation for warm welcomes and prolonged, agonising stays that makes the Tower of London look like the Toronto Four Seasons. It is not famous for friendliness. Or efficiency.
But it will almost certainly be a necessary evil. And, if the cruise line is not arranging your flights, what are some of your options for getting to and from Miami if you are UK and Northern Ireland based? Here’s a few ideas to consider.
British Airways is the obvious choice for many. With a good range of regional flights connecting through the airline’s hub at Heathrow’s Terminal Five, BA offers a brisk, efficient daily service. There’s up to four direct flights a day. Flying time from Heathrow to Miami is around nine hours and forty minutes.
Caveats: BA operates codeshare flights with both American Airlines and Iberia. Check your flight numbers carefully once you have booked. For instance, an Iberia flight will almost certainly mean a second change of flight, usually in Madrid.
The joint Franco/Dutch conglomerate has the best network of regional connections in the UK. Operating over their respective Paris and Amsterdam hubs, they offer a good inflight product, and the inestimable advantage of avoiding Heathrow.
Caveats: Not all of the flights are direct-especially on KLM. Either airline might route you through a third airport; typically, New York, Chicago, or even Detroit. And again, watch out for the codeshares. And while Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport is usually a breeze to transit, Charles De Gaulle at Paris can be a bit of a scrum.
An excellent product from Heathrow, their big problem was a lack of connecting regional flights. Something that the airline has now largely redressed, although more need to be added from the north east. The lounge at Heathrow is the best of it’s kind; an outstanding pre flight experience.
Caveats: Still not enough regional connections to be a truly viable alternative to BA.
Operates on the theory- thus far unproven- that bigger is better. Offers departures via seven UK hubs- Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham, Heathrow and Gatwick, with onward connections typically via Washington DC, Newark and Chicago, as well as Houston. Lots of availability.
Caveats: Nothing to really entice those in north east England away from BA. Continental also operate Boeing 757s on many routes that hardly stack up for comfort with the opposition. Unlike their rivals, they do not offer even the basic luxuries of free beer and wine in economy. And Washington’s Dulles Airport is a shocking experience to try and change through.
Now part of a strategic alliance with Virgin Atlantic, Delta is also tied in with partner airlines, Air France and KLM.
Delta flies Boeing 767 aircraft from Manchester and Heathrow to connect over it’s hubs in New York, Boston and Atlanta. Free beer and wine is on offer. The 767 is generally comfortable for a long haul flight, but not up there with the A340 or the Boeing 777. Prices are generally pretty competitive.
Caveats: Once again, a lack of regional connections for most of the British Isles. A good option for those airports close by, but otherwise not so much. Not the greatest reputation for punctuality or baggage handling either, to be fair.
Flies to Miami from both Manchester and Heathrow, via it’s hubs in Charlotte and Philadelphia. Uses comfortable A330’s on the main routes, although beer and wine is again at a charge. Philadelphia International Airport is one of the best transit airports anywhere; great dining options at reasonable prices.
US Airways also flies into Miami’s new Terminal J, which feels like an alternative universe compared to the disjointed and unfriendly mess that is Miami. Genuinely helpful and welcoming staff and- whisper it- an efficient system and set up that actually leaves you wondering; is this really Miami?
Caveats: Still, not good regional connectivity over the great bulk of the UK. Some of their Boeing 737 connecting flights down to Miami are truly horrendous experiences.
A COUPLE OF LEFT FIELDS OPTIONS….
TAP; AIR PORTUGAL The Portuguese national airline operates a service to Miami via it’s Lisbon Portela hub. You can fly into here from both Manchester and London. The airline flies both A330’s and A340’s. Hit the timing right, and you might get some really good prices on TAP.
AVOID MIAMI ALTOGETHER… and fly instead into Fort Lauderdale’s smaller, less stress inducing Hollywood International Airport, just twenty fives miles to the north. i used this on an Air Canada round trip service from Heathrow, via Montreal outbound and Toronto Pearson on return. If the schedules work for you, I definitely recommend this one as an option.
This is not a definitive list of course, and never claimed to be. I’m just hoping that, by throwing a few options out there, I might just make your journey that bit better and, who knows, maybe even save you a few quid? Whoever you get out there with- Bon Voyage!